Feature Article - October 2006
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Fixtures Fixation

What to consider when outfitting sports facilities

By Daniela Bloch


"We offer many of our sports in shared facilities."

Sound familiar? Of course it does, or at least it should.These are the ubiquitous words of the recreation management business's Everyman and with good reason—they make sense. Facilities everywhere recognize the strengths in multipurpose surfaces, buildings and equipment and astutely take advantage of the perks. And why not? Multipurpose applies to various aspects of facility life including field use, storage and equipment. And it reduces costs while maximizing play opportunities.

"In our football and soccer stadiums we try to use different areas for storing equipment," Colagiovanni says. "If the stadium is not being used once the season is over, we use it for storage, but we try and keep it organized and we add the school logos to the containers as well."

So take note and make the best of your time: If you have an off-season, use transition periods for sports to maintain and upkeep the fields, instead of doing it during ongoing programs or at the last minute. If at all possible, use that in-between time for other activities as well.

Colagiovanni also notes that the rec centers on campus combine different sports under the same roof—and we're pretty sure this happens everywhere. From synthetic turf surfaces to shared workout mats, fields and equipment rarely should be limited to just one single athletic purpose. So when configuring the facility, consider a sports surface that caters to soccer and baseball, or invest in storage units that hold both baseball bats and hockey helmets.

Bottom line: Think integration, not segregation. Try to efficiently overlap field and equipment usage without impeding activity.

The Eight-Fold Path to Facility Perfection

1. RECOGNIZE WHO YOUR CUSTOMERS ARE. If the facility you own caters to professional teams, raise the quality bar. If it's the local crowd of youth games and intramural teams you're bringing in, buying highest-quality equipment might be superfluous. Know who you'll be working with.

2. SET A BUDGET. It's important to know just how much you are able or willing to spend before you start buying. So keep in mind the sports you will offer and the clientele that will play there and set a limit on how much you can spend.

3. SWEAT THE SMALL STUFF. When outfitting your facility, the last thing you want to do is skimp on the details—they'll be what makes the facility stand out. Think about adding hair dryers to the women's locker rooms and buying smaller-sized soccer balls for younger youth teams.

4. THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX. With growing ingenuity in the industry, unconventional sports are gaining ground in the recreation business, so stay open-minded. Archery and kayaking might not fit the traditional mold, but they indicate a change in athletic activities that you need to stay up to date with.

5. REMEMBER WHERE YOU ARE. Remember what natural environment you are working with, and use it to your advantage. It might not make much sense or be financially responsible to add equipment that won't work with the climate.

6. DO YOUR RESEARCH. No one likes to be taken for a ride, so before you meet with or purchase from suppliers know what they are talking about. Look up price and quality information, be in-the-know with competitors and don't settle for anything less than what you want.

7. DON'T BE A SCROOGE. For both lackluster and dazzling sports facilities, buying the right accessories proves crucial to overall recreational success and customer contentment. It's better to spend big once and never again than to consistently purchase shoddy, low-cost equipment. For accessorizing success then, think realistically about budget, facility users and desired quality.

8. SAVE WHERE YOU CAN. Cheap products are never the perennial solution—duct tape, safety pins and history prove that. But they are seemingly irresistible, so try to save where you can. For example, can price be alleviated by purchasing from a local manufacturer? Look into it. Can you minimize needed staff by keeping an open-space environment? If so, money saved could be invested in equipment and other facility needs.